FAST Update Serbia: Trends in conflict and cooperation



In March and April, Serbian politics were still dominated by the government building process and the Kosovo status negotiations. On 26 March, the final Kosovo status proposal was presented to the UN Security Council (UNSC) in a closed-door session. The UN Secretary-General (UNSG), the EU, NATO and the US all endorsed Ahtisaari's plan, which proposes supervised independence for Kosovo. The Serbian government, supported by Russia, China and some other states, called for further negotiations because they claimed that the plan was not based on real negotiations, as none of the over 100 amendments to the plan proposed by the Serbian negotiation team were accepted. In the UNSC meeting on 3 April, Russia reiterated that it would only support a solution accepted by both Kosovo Albanians and Serbs. Russia also suggested sending a Security Council mission to Serbia and Kosovo to collect additional information before discussing Kosovo's future. This fact-finding mission took place on 25-28 April. Belgium's UN Ambassador Verbeke led representatives from the 15 Security Council members to Belgrade, Prishtina, Mitrovica and some Albanian and Serb villages. On the Kosovo border, roughly 10-12,000 Kosovo Serbs demonstrated, claiming they could not return to their homes in Kosovo. Verbeke reported to the UN that the participants of the mission needed time to make up their minds about the situation before deciding on Kosovo's future. The Russian Ambassador to the UN, Lavrov, stated that the mission has clearly proven that Kosovo cannot become independent under the circumstances and that Resolution 1244 must be fulfilled before the UN can draft another one. The EU and the US have called for the quick adoption of the new resolution, as this would bring stability to the whole region. Indeed, it is dangerous to keep the status quo for too long because on both the Serb and the Albanian sides, there are groups calling for armed resistance. The establishment of the Serb paramilitary group "Guards of the Tsar Lazar" on 5 May received a lot of attention and concern. Many Serbian politicians called on the group not to mobilize people. This group seems to be largely a publicity stunt. Without state support it is unlikely to become a serious factor. With a change in Serbian government policy, however, such groups might become a more serious threat to stability.

In light of the incompatible positions of the Serbian and Kosovo Albanian elites, Alfred Gusenbauer, Chancellor of Austria, has proposed the partition of Kosovo - a solution that until lately constituted a taboo in international discussions. This is particularly relevant to the two predominantly Albanian-populated municipalities of South Serbia. The Albanian political elite in Bujanovac and Presevo disagree on the future of the municipalities. Some promote secession from Serbia; others opt for the status quo in terms of borders. Further negotiations on Kosovo do not seem unlikely anymore as the UNSC seems to be more divided on the issue than the EU and US have expected. If the UNSC does pass a new UN resolution, this will not happen earlier than June.

With the Kosovo status decision looming, the DSS, in contrast to the DS and G17plus, is not interested in forming a government quickly, in spite of the constitutional cabinet building deadline of 14 May and pressure from abroad, mainly from the EU. By early May coalition talks between DSS, DS and G17 have largely broken down and Tomislav Nikolic of the Radical Party was elected as president of parliament with the support of the DSS deputies. In March, discussions focused on the so-called sixth and zero principles. The sixth principle advocated by G17 plus and the DSS maintains that the DS can have either the post of prime minister or of president. The zero principle, which the DS brought forward as a reaction to the proposal by the two other parties, states that if the prime minister and the president posts have to be shared between the two parties, then they have to share posts on all levels - including local assemblies and municipal administrations, which implies that the DSS would have to break up their local coalitions with the Radicals. Moreover, the DS maintains that one party can occupy both posts because the president is directly elected and therefore cannot be subject to government building negotiations. Most importantly, however, the parties do not agree on how to divide the ministries, especially the ministry of the interior and the intelligence service.